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Friday, January 20, 2017
Children's Society launches DVD on Travellers and Gypsies
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¬† A unique DVD set, telling the story of different Traveller groups in the UK, (including Irish Travellers, Gypsies and Bargees) produced by The Catholic Children's Society (Westminster), was launched in the House of Commons yesterday. MP Kevin McNamara, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Traveller Law Reform Coalition hosted the event. The release of the DVD takes place just as a series of reforms are being discussed in parliament that could affect the lives of the travelling communities. Currently there are not enough official sites in the UK to accomodate Travellers and planning legislation makes it difficult for them to buy their own land. The result is that many families are forced to move from place to place, missing out on vital education and healthcare and suffering from poverty and discrimination. The two-hour film is aimed at policy makers, educators and school children to give them a greater understanding of Traveller culture and the prejudices they face. Speaking about proposed reforms relating to the issues in the DVD, Mr McNamara said: "I endorse the new Housing Act, which will require Local Authorities to identify land for Traveller sites and pledge that registered council landlords will have access to Housing Corporation money to build and manage sites. I also gather that the government is promising to look at security of tenure in a new draft bill to be prepared by the Law Commission. I hope that all these reforms will be followed through. It is not only in the interests of Travellers and their welfare, but also in the interests of the settled community as a matter of common humanity and in order to avoid unauthorised encampments that inconvenience the settled community, that all councils pull their weight and provide the sites that are desperately needed." Bishop Bernard Longley Chair of the Catholic Children's Society, praised the work of campaigners in improving basic conditions for Travellers. He said: "Our support for reform is rooted in the reality of our day to day work with the Traveller community and particularly with children and young people. It is our fervent hope that better understanding between the settled and Traveller communities will breakdown prejudices and create mutual respect and goodwill and that this DVD will go some way towards assisting that process." Tom Sweeney, an Irish Traveller who lives on the White City site and is co-chair of the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, was involved in making the DVD. He thanked all those involved in the project, saying: "I hope this helps inform people about the way we are forced to live and the discrimination we meet. Our people often miss out on things that settled communities take for granted, such as education and healthcare." Lord Avebury, President of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romanies and Travellers, who has campaigned on behalf of Travellers for many years, said: "We are on the threshold of a radical improvement in the lives of Gypsies and Travellers. But new provisions may take some time, and in the meanwhile, some local authorities are going in for expensive and pointless evictions ≠ pointless, because the Travelers have nowhere else to go, and often finish on the roadside. These evictions have a particularly traumatic effect on children, damaging their physical and mental health, and often undoing the patient efforts of Gypsy education workers to get children into local schools." He said: "Solving the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers will also eliminate the friction that arises over unauthorised encampments. It is a win-win objective, and as the election approaches, the political parties should join together in supporting the constructive approach, sidelining the few who would irresponsibly sabotage all the good work that has been done so far, and being planned, by stirring up racist prejudice and hostility against Gypsies and Travellers." For more information contact the director of the Catholic Children's Society e-mail: The DVD, funded by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and the Irish Youth Foundation is available from the Society at a cost of £13.50 inc P & P.
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